New policies to ease pain of land loss

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 12:00am

Beijing has issued new compensation policies to appease farmers who have borne the brunt of a wave of land expropriation, state media reports.

Local governments should provide subsidies to farmers who were unable to maintain their living standards because of the lax enforcement of existing compensation packages, the Ministry of Land and Resources said.

Local authorities are supposed to reimburse farmers for seized land and also pay their resettlement costs. The payment ceiling set by the government is 30 times the average annual output of the land. But local officials had been using a range of excuses to get around the rule, a ministry official told Xinhua.

Local governments often confiscated farm land at minimum cost and leased it out for industrial construction projects at a premium.

The official said farmers were owed 15 billion yuan in compensation.

Over the past seven years, the mainland had lost 66,670 sq km of arable land, said the ministry. It is an estimate that many experts consider far below the actual figure - not reflecting the impact of desertification, poor management and illegal land grabs.

In April, Premier Wen Jiabao spelled out measures to curb illegal land requisitions to rein in rapid economic growth and help 800 million rural residents.

But last month the central government lifted a six-month freeze on farmland land use conversions, partly due to concerns the economy could cool down too fast after the central bank raised interest rates for the first time in nine years.